Metro Vancouver ‘living wage’ hits $20.68 an hour

Bare-bones family budget covers basic needs only, say wage reform advocates

The living wage is an annual calculation of the hourly pay required for two working parents to modestly sustain a family of four.

Advocacy groups say the “living wage” that workers should be paid in order to meet a family’s basic needs in Metro Vancouver has climbed to $20.68 an hour.

The calculation, released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, estimates the pay required by both parents in a family of four working full time for a no-frills life to support themselves and their children.

The estimate for Metro Vancouver is up 58 cents or 2.9 per cent from a year ago and has climbed nearly 24 per cent since 2008, when the living wage estimate was first established at $16.74 an hour.

It adds up to $37,638 a year pre-tax for each parent, assuming a 35-hour work week.

Main drivers of the recent increases include rising rents (a three-bedroom apartment now costs $1,375 a month, up from $1,300 in 2013) and child care expenses, which are up to $1,324 a month in part, the report says, because Metro school districts added an extra week to spring break in recent years to help control their costs.

It’s assumed one parent takes two post-secondary courses, making them eligible for TransLink’s U-Pass, which reduces the public transit expense from $124 to $37 a month for most of the year.

One parent is assumed to own and operate a used car, pushing the overall transportation expense to $517 a month.

The breakdown of the monthly costs in the calculation are:

  • Shelter: $1,563 including rent, utilities and insurance.
  • Child care: $1,324 for a four-year-old in full-time care and a seven-year-old in before and after school care, and full-time care during some holidays.
  • Food: $783.
  • Transportation: $517 for one used car and a discounted student transit pass.
  • Clothing and footwear: $191.
  • Medical Services Plan premiums: $144
  • Non-MSP health care: $139 for extended health and dental private plan
  • Parents education: $91 for two college courses.
  • Contingency fund: $241.
  • Other household expenses: $734 to cover everything from toiletries and household supplies to Internet access and minimal recreation and entertainment, as well as birthday presents, a modest family vacation and some sports or arts classes for the kids.

Not in the budget is any attempt at home ownership, savings for retirement or the children’s future education.

A coalition of groups urges Metro Vancouver employers to consider the calculation and pay wages that reflect the real cost of living in their communities.

Lower wages make working long hours at multiple jobs a requirement for many residents, the report said.

“Families who work for low wages face impossible choices – buy clothing or heat the house, feed the children or pay the rent,” the report says. “The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems.”

A separate calculation for the Fraser Valley pegged the living wage there at $17.27 an hour.